Closer:A Billionaire Romance Novel(2)

By: Aria Hawthorne


She jaywalked across the busy street. God, how she loved downtown Chicago. The noise, the energy, the vibe. She even loved the taxi drivers who honked at her for darting out in front of them rather than waiting for the pedestrian light. She had traveled to the “Loop” hundreds of times and it never got old. Hurrying along the broad sidewalks, she scurried past the meandering crowds. Move over, tourists…this was her town. She had somewhere important to be and she knew exactly how to get there.

When she came upon the address—88 North Michigan Avenue, she pushed through the revolving doors and into the sleek modern lobby.

Pressing the elevator call button, the security guard greeted her. “Going up?”

“Suite 6600.” She knew the drill and passed into the elevator cab.

“Lucky girl. Floor 66 is all the way at the top…enjoy.”

The elevators doors closed and she quickly felt it flutter upwards. All the way at the top? She had interviewed in dozens of downtown office buildings, but none of them were as fancy as the top floor of a skyscraper along Michigan Ave.

“It’s going to be a bit different,” Beatrice had warned. But Inez had dismissed her. How different could it possibly be? A pop quiz in proper filing etiquette in which Inez would be forced to color code the CEO’s secret condom jar?

She didn’t know what “different” meant, but Beatrice had told her in the past that she should be prepared for anything and she always was, including the time she was asked to serve morning coffee to the president of the company on a silver platter.

Douche bag.

The elevator stopped and the doors chimed open. She stepped out and into a private glass-paneled lobby. Beyond their doors, she saw a large empty business suite with a sweeping view of Lake Michigan.

Okay, you win, Beatrice… this was certainly different.

She slowly slipped through the doors. There was no receptionist. No waiting area. There were only walls and walls of panoramic glass, stretching in both directions along the suite’s pristine hardwood floors and open floor plan. Then, she noticed something else—eerie silence. At the end of the corridor, she thought she spotted an entertainment bar and several tables and chairs. Some sort of a weird, underground night club for business men? Closed during the day, but teeming with macho executive bravado at night? Inez imagined a fraternity of suited businessmen, breaking out the Jameson and grooving along the hardwood floors to the beat of the Bee Gees under the illumination of a disco ball. If there was one thing she had learned from all her temp jobs it was that men—especially wealthy, powerful businessmen—were also painfully repressed assholes who did all sorts of bizarro things whenever they thought everyone was so plastered that nobody was going to remember any of it.

But Inez rarely drank. And she knew all the settings on her camera phone.

She moved to the floor-to-ceiling windows and reached out to touch their cool glass. She shivered, as if she could feel the stark wind rushing across the lake. It was one of the most beautiful vistas of the lakeshore she had ever seen—an expansive view of its endless crystal waters, lined by sandy beaches and the miniature highway of Lake Shore Drive. Peering out across Monroe Harbor with the tiny toy sailboats moored in its bay, she settled her gaze on the unobstructed view of the historic lighthouse, just south of Navy Pier. She always loved seeing that lighthouse, wishing she could disappear into its isolation and ignite its single blinking light every night for all the seamen who needed it. Inez didn’t need a lot of money to be happy. She simply needed a tiny place to call her own to protect her from all the rigors and hardships of the cold, cruel world—her own private lighthouse where she would take on the responsibility of maintaining a constant flame.

Inez paused, sensing that something—or someone—was watching her. She glanced up and saw a series of small tinted black bulbs, spaced along the ceiling every six to ten feet. Security cameras. Then, the metallic click of unlocking doors at the opposite end of the corridor caught her attention. She stared at the two dark mahogany doors, shutting off access to the rest of the business suite, and waited for them to swing open and reveal whoever was watching her. She glanced back up at the security cameras.

What was her favorite part about being a temp? she thought, running through her interview rehearsal while moving towards the door when nothing but silence greeted her.

Showing up to weird, messed-up interviews like this…

She reached out for the door latch, pulling it ajar and slipping through it. Just barely. It was heavier than she expected, and she thought for a moment she would be trapped within the jaws of its steel doorjamb. After jumping forward, securing her escape, she stopped and surveyed the dimly lit executive suite. Decorative lights hung above the immaculate mahogany desk and the silver blinds were drawn down past the middle of the floor-length windows.

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